Norway has expelled 15 Russian officials, accusing them of engaging in covert intelligence activities under diplomatic cover. This move comes as part of a series of expulsions by various countries in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Norway’s foreign minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, stated that the country will not allow Moscow to misuse its embassy for spying purposes.
The Norwegian authorities had been monitoring these individuals over time before declaring them persona non grata, meaning they are unwelcome and must leave the country shortly. However, specific details about their alleged activities have not been disclosed.
Norway has identified Russia as the “greatest intelligence threat” it faces, particularly in light of the deteriorating security situation in Europe. Norway shares a border of 197 km (122 miles) with Russia in the Arctic, and their relations have been strained during the Ukraine crisis.
Despite not being a member of the European Union, Norway has aligned with several European countries in imposing sanctions on Russia. In April 2022, Norway had previously expelled three individuals it claimed were intelligence officers, to which Russia responded by expelling three Norwegian diplomats. In October 2022, a Russian national posing as a Brazilian university lecturer was arrested in Norway on spying charges.
While Norway aims to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Moscow, it remains resolute in not allowing diplomatic missions to be misused for covert intelligence activities, as emphasized by Foreign Minister Huitfeldt.
Similar expulsions of Russian officials on suspicion of abusing diplomatic privileges for intelligence purposes have occurred in other European countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Belgium in recent months.